by Tom Kaneshige

Apple App Store Clean-Up

Dec 10, 2009
MobileSmall and Medium Business

The App Store should change its focus from quantity to quality and honest customer reviews.

For months, I’ve been hoping Apple would loosen its draconian grip on its iPhone App Store. I’ve also wished for a transparent app approval process and questioned Apple for approving fart-sounding apps while disapproving really productive apps such as Google Voice.

But now I find myself applauding Apple for giving the hook to two iPhone developers.

[ Check out five moves Apple should make in 2010, reports ]

Earlier this week, Apple yanked more than 1,000 iPhone apps from Chinese developer Molinker for gaming the App Store’s user ratings system. Molinker allegedly offered free programs to users who agreed to give Molinker apps five stars.

A few months prior to the Molinker incident, Apple pulled Pakistani developer Perfect Acumen’s nearly 1,000 iPhone Apps from the App Store’s virtual shelves. Apparently, Perfect Acumen’s apps were infringing on copyrights.

There’s no question that worthless and silly apps clutter the App Store today. Apple’s much-criticized app approval process has been slow to evolve with the App Store’s success. The user review process? Simply sophomoric. The App Store’s year-and-a-half road toward 100,000 apps is filled with missteps.

Lately, though, Apple has shown signs of cleaning up its App Store. Along with putting the kibosh on Molinker and Perfect Acumen, Apple recently gave developers some insight into apps moving through the app approval process.

Why now? The App Store has become the great differentiator among smartphones such as the Motorola Droid. Apple has been playing the quantity game with more than 100,000 apps available and will likely continue to do so, as IDC expects the App Store to hit the 300,000 mark next year. But more and more, quality of apps is taking on greater significance.

One of the biggest criticisms about the App Store concerns its app customer reviews, which plays a key role in the success or failure of an app. There’s little to no oversight. Someone outside of Apple had to out Molinker’s reviewers on the take. Three months ago, MobileCrunch reported that Reverb Communications, a PR firm for game publishers and developers, had interns posing as users and writing happy reviews.

PC World’s Jared Newman wants to see Apple add interactive features to reviews in order to give the reviews—and, by extension, the App Store itself—a higher degree of legitmacy. He believes the rabid Apple fan base can self-regulate the reviews process by voting up or burying the work of peer reviewers. “I’d like to see a system that rewards reviewers who write more and cover apps from a wide variety of developers,” Newman writes.

Newman doubts changes will be made, but I see signs that Apple is finally starting to clean up the App Store. Apple’s efforts might be baby steps, but they’re significant nonetheless. After all, the App Store is no longer the only game in town. If the App Store doesn’t get its act together, developers now have other very viable mobile platforms for their apps.

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